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A number of questions “has been” or “have been” asked?

From the grammatical view both are correct, but please explain the difference in meaning:

  1. The number of students in the class is fifteen.
  2. A number of students were late for class.
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The number of students in the class is fifteen.

The verb is singular because it refers to 'the number'. The subject of this sentence is 'the number'. 'Of students' is a modifier of 'the number'

'A number of' means several, some.

Several students were late for class.

Some students were late for class.

A number of students were late for class.

The subject of these sentences is 'students', and 'some', 'several', 'a number of' are modifiers of 'students'. The verb agrees with the subject.

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The first sentence informs you about the number which is singular

The number is fifteen

The second one is about the students which is plural word

Students were late

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